EDITORIAL: Padden for DA in Arapahoe County, Mason in Adams County

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Aurora voters have all good choices to make in electing new district attorneys to the two judicial districts encompassing the region.

In the 17th Judicial District, two skilled, veteran prosecutors of the district are vying to take over the office from term-limited Dave Young.

Both offer solid plans for reforming the office to include greater transparency and accountability. Both have a firm grasp on the need to reform those offices amid local and national pressure to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

But Democrat Brian Mason makes a compelling case to use his office to end the “classroom to prison” pipeline that defaults to incarceration rather than rehabilitation. 

Both he and Republican opponent Tim McCormack make it clear that prisons are more for protecting the public than persecuting the convicted. We have no doubt that neither of these seasoned prosecutors will endanger the public by setting criminals free.

But this time in history calls for leaders who are keenly sensitive to the nuance of racism, and how it can’t be rooted out simply by being cognizant of it. It will take meaningful, difficult and controversial changes to make a difference. We think Mason is the person to make that happen in Adams County.

In the 18th Judicial District, two very different experienced prosecutors are looking to take the reins from the flamboyant DA George Brauchler, who is term limited.

Both Republican John Kellner and Democrat Amy Padden have said outright they aim to get far less media attention than has Brauchler, who has tried runs for governor and attorney general.

But the two lawyers split there. Padden said she would push to work hand in hand with a wave of reforms that seek to address both systemic racism in the criminal justice system and look for ways to reduce incarceration, especially for addiction and mental illness cases.

Kellner said it’s important for the district to expand its role of protecting the public further beyond a fixation on visible, violent crimes. He points to more work needing to be done in the area of preventing and prosecuting cons and fraud affecting local seniors and others.

Both have strong track records as being strong managers.

But Padden has the right philosophy about how pending police and criminal justice reforms need to find their way into the everyday workings of the DA’s office.

She’s asking state lawmakers to create a special unit within the state attorney general’s office to investigate and prosecute cases where police are accused of excessive force or wrongdoing.

It’s a common-sense idea that is long overdue. Police and local prosecutors work hand-in-hand daily to implement justice. Local prosecutors even depend on police to investigate purported crimes within their own agencies. The lack of transparency and accountability is staggering.

Kellner makes a good argument about keeping such investigations in house so that local DAs must answer to voters on outcomes. But that’s unrealistic given the length of DA terms and attention span of voters. Constituents shouldn’t have to police the police or prosecutors. That’s the state’s job.

Padden will bring needed reforms to the Aurora region, and possibly the state.